NEA Policy Statement on Digital Learning

The National Education Association (NEA) has put out a policy statement related to digital learning. (Thanks to Troy Hicks for forwarding the link) You should read it yourself but here are some sentences that jumped out at me as I read through it:

All students—pre-k through graduate students—need to develop advanced critical thinking and information literacy skills and master new digital tools. At the same time, they need to develop the initiative to become self-directed learners while adapting to the ever-changing digital information landscape.


The appropriate use of technology in education—as defined by educators rather than entities driven by for-profit motives—will improve student learning, quality of instruction, and education employee effectiveness, and will provide opportunities to eradicate educational inequities.


We as a nation must address the issues of equity and access in a comprehensive manner in order to see the promise and realize the opportunities that digital learning can provide.


Teachers need access to relevant training on how to use technology and incorporate its use into their instruction, ESPs need access to training on how best to support the use of technology in classrooms, and administrators need training to make informed decisions about purchasing equipment, technology use, course assignments, and personnel assignments.


As different digital tools are created and used, the impact of technology on traditional socialization roles must be considered. The face-to-face relationship between student and educator is critical to increasing student learning, and students’ interactions with each other are an important part of their socialization into society.


What do you think of the statement? I think it covers a lot of ground, but mostly through the eyes of a labor group (I know, that’s what NEA is, and I am a member). I see this document in partnership to others emerging from other groups, such as NCTE, around the learning of and the teaching of digital literacy.

Peace (in the sharing),


My Credo: I Believe in Change and Collaboration

MOOC Credo WordCloud

For this Make Cycle in the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC), Terry Elliott and I are asking folks to explore their beliefs and credos around the principles of Connected Learning. These include the values inherent in the principles, the issues of equity and access, and participation in the networks. That’s a lot of ideas to grapple with, but Terry’s blog post — which you can read here — gives a nice “map” of how one might go about doing that.

For me, I turned to the “This I Believe” podcasting idea, writing a short essay as I thought about how what I believe in coincides with the principles of Connected Learning. I then decided to create a VoiceThread, opening up my beliefs to others to add to, comment on, or share their own beliefs and credos. I recorded the audio in Audacity, first, and then imported the file into my Voicethread (in case you are wondering). The image is a word cloud of my text. I used Word It Out to create the cloud.

I invite you, too, to add to the thread (you need an account, and then you can click on “comment” to add your voice, text and more).

And tonight (Monday), we are hosting a live “Make with Me” session on Google Hangout with Chris Lawrence, of the Mozilla Foundation, and co-MOOC facilitator Chad Sansing to talk about credos, beliefs and more. (Hangout happens from 8-9 p.m Eastern (5-6 p.m. Pacific/ 6-7 p.m. Mountain/ 7-8 p.m. Central and it will be embedded at the MOOC, along with a chat program that is open to anyone.)

Peace (in the credo),


First Day Jitters: Digital Literacies Workshop for HS Students

workshop teaser

I haven’t written much about this, since I have been knee-deep in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, but today is the first day of a five-week workshop program I am leading for high school students around digital literacies, remixing the web and game design. I’m a little jittery. You know that feeling? My workshop is part of a partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and a local urban school district, which got a big grant to offer up a comprehensive program to support English Language Learners this summer. There are tutorial sessions, group activities, work programs and workshops in this Summer of Power program.

I am one of the workshop leaders. Along with a WMWP colleague, who has expertise in ELL, I am going to have these high school students explore the digital worlds from a couple of angles — first, through creating avatars to represent themselves in a webcomic space and beyond; then into remixing websites with the Mozilla Webmaker tools; and then into video game design with Gamestar Mechanic. Meanwhile, I am weaving in game design from the very first week (tomorrow, we hack the game of Chess, for example). Writing will be at the heart of what we are doing — from writing in and out of the day, to storyboarding projects, to reflecting on the experience and possibilities. I am working to line up some outside visitors, too, from the field of computer programming and video game design, and I am reaching out to the Mozilla folks, too.

I don’t know the students, and I have not worked much with high school students, and the language barriers are somewhat of an unknown. Yet today, I have to give an elevator speech (15 minute presentation) six times, to six different groups of students, as they will be deciding which enrichment workshop they want to attend. I am using Prezi to present my overview, but I decided to start with a non-threatening quiz — showing icons from the gaming world and I’ll ask if they recognize them (we’ll be using a lot of visual clues this summer). There is one outlier in the mix (Mr. Monopoly) who does not originate from a video game. We’ll see if they can pick him out of the lineup.

What has me on nerves, though, is not the students, so much. Since this is not my school, I worry about the infrastructure of technology and whether things will work as I need them to work, and what kind of support I will get when they don’t. I did visit the lab last week, checked out the computers, and found  a few upgrades that needed doing. The teacher there is fantastic, and she got to work on the upgrades even as I was leaving the lab. She wants it to run smooth. That’s a great sign.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

Peace (in the pitch),


Reflecting on the Importance of Maps

My Twitter Map Collage

We’ve had maps on our minds at the Making Learning Connected MOOC this week. You’d be surprised (or not, if you are in the MOOC) by the range of mapping that went on — from typical geographical maps, to metaphorical maps, to maps that were flowcharts mapping out an idea. And lots more in-between.

Maps are interesting things, aren’t they? They help us shape our world. We make maps to put ideas and people and places into some semblance of order and connections. Maps are heuristics, a way to make sense of things that at first seem beyond making sense. Maps are also place markers. They document where we’ve been, and where we are going, and how we are going to get there.

In terms of the principles of Connected Learning, what makes maps so important is that they can show connections forged between ideas and between people. In the collage above, which I created early on in the week and then never posted, notice the bottom right image map. This comes from a service that will map out connections from Twitter (Mentionmap), and I’m struck by how important those people have become to my professional growth as a teacher. I turn to folks in my network a lot for help, for advice, for sounding board ears. You can’t quite see all of the smaller connections, but there are tons of folks that I orbit around on a regular basis. That’s something I know without having this map, but the map helps me see those connections from a new angle, and it documents where I am right now. (And the site allows you to click deeper into connections, moving through the nodes of people and hashtags — that’s something the static image does not show.)

The top map (via Tweetsmap) in the collage shows followers from around the world. That map is not nearly as useful and as interesting to me as the other one because I don’t “see” connections in the top one. I just see data points, and data points without context are not all that useful. In the bottom map, in the live version, you can follow the linking lines, and watch as other connections unfold, and the web that comes into play makes you realize that we are immersed in the connected educator movement. The map makes that more visible than ever.

The other day, I was thinking about maps in connection to literature because my youngest son and I were immersed in “reading” a map that is part of a book we are reading aloud (The Familiars). He was running his finger along the river crossing the world, and asking about the names of these imaginary places, and I realized how important this map was to him, the listener of this story, as we situate ourselves as readers to a magical place beyond our view. This map was a document we come back to regularly as we read, following the heroes on their journey. The same thing happens with maps in other books we read. When we start a read-aloud, we often turn to the first and last page, searching for a map to orientate us to the story.

The question of whether making maps is “writing” and interpreting maps is “reading” — and thus, part of literacy came up in a few discussions this week — and I would argue, yes. What about you?

Peace (along the terrain),


Using Video to Capture Classroom Practice in Action

Here’s an interesting look at how one teacher — Sarah Brown Wessling, from The Teaching Channel — uses a video camera to capture what she is doing in her classroom, as part of her reflective practice.

Anyone else do this on a regular basis?

Peace (in the lens),


Graphic Novel Review: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Now here is a pleasant surprise: a female protagonist in an adventure/action graphic novel story, whose wit and expertise carry the day. In Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, by Tony Cliff, the heroine — Delilah Dirk — meets up with Erdemoglu Selim (the lieutenant), strikes up a friendship in the midst of escaping one trap or another, and moves on to even more danger in her life as a freewheeling spirit whose never known to pass up the possibility of treasure, no matter how dangerous it might be.

This book by the  publishing company of First Second evolved from a webcomic series that Cliff has been developing and publishing online, but I enjoyed the adventure book without knowing a single thing of the backstory of Delilah Dirk.  Her swashbuckling energy drew me right into the story. In fact, I found it fascinating to catch a glimpse of her character through her actions, although Cliff focuses more on Selim as the psuedo-narrator of the story here, which begins when Selim is kicked out of his job because of Delilah, is almost executed because of it and then has his life saved by the story’s heroine.

There’s a breathless rush of action here, sort of like Indiana Jones, and the artwork is beautiful. We never quite resolve how a woman of Delilah’s talents conflicts with the mores of the Turkish society (male-dominated) but I appreciated Cliff’s restraint from developing a love interest between the two main characters. In fact, Delilah is not sexualized at all, although she is beautiful in mind, spirit and intelligence. Plus, she’s the most skilled sword fighter in the book.

And did I mention her flying ship?

There’s a lot to appreciate in Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant and I look forward to more adventures.

Peace (in the book),


Blogwalking at the Making Learning Connected MOOC

(with apologies to my good friend, Gail Desler, who uses the moniker Blogwalker for her blog.)
clmooc blogwalk
Yesterday, one of the questions I wondered about is whether folks in the Making Learning Connected MOOC are writing and sharing in spaces beyond the typical field of vision. The answer is “yes” and one of those spaces are on their blogs. There is a Blog Hub at the main MOOC website, but I was also curious about how to collect all of those blogs together. I decided to use Jog the Web and encourage you to take a blogwalk through the field of blogs, where folks are doing sharing and reflecting.

Go to the CLMOOC Blogwalk Jog the Web site

Another view on Jog the Web is the Index view.

Go to the Index View of the CLMOOC Blogwalk

If you are in the MOOC and blogging, be sure to add yours to the Blog Hub and drop me a note here, so that I can add you into the Blogwalk, too.

Peace (in the tour),


Five Questions on Friday for the Making Learning Connected MOOC

Dear MOOC,

How are you? It’s about about three weeks now since you were launched, and I was there right at the start. Actually, I was there right before the start, too, helping to plant some of the seeds and hoping you would find some roots.  You have! It’s been pretty amazing to watch you grow as more and more people add ideas and connections. Today is Friday, which is a Find Friday idea that Anna came up with to connect those of us in you with more of us in you — sort of like a Spider’s Web of connective threads. Today, Anna asks us to consider asking some questions about you, and I figured, who better to ask, MOOC my friend, than you?

So, Mooc, my friend, I have a few points of inquiry that are on my mind:

  • Is there demographic diversity in the MOOC? It may be my own impressions, but participants seem to be mostly white Americans. This is a topic that I wonder about as a facilitator of you, most of all, because it forces us to examine our invitational messages, our openness, and our outreach into diverse communities. We want more voices and more perspectives. This question does not mean what you are is not rich with experience and with creativity because, well, just take a look, and you’ll see that it is. It’s amazing. Still, how can/could we have expanded the possibilities even further and could we have done more to help bring in more cultural diversity, MOOC?
  • Why are you so Google Plus-centric? I have to admit, MOOC, that being part of you and the Teach the Web MOOC has brought me new appreciation for Google Plus as a place for an online community. I wasn’t a huge user before, but I am now. There’s a lot to like. Still, given that “open” is your middle name, we were hoping that more folks would find other spaces in which to collaborate and reflect. Twitter is your distant cousin, and blogs seem a far third. Is there a fourth space that people are using? (Is anyone using Facebook for you, MOOC?)
  • Is it OK that much of the activity seems chaotic? I suspect you don’t mind, MOOC, since you thrive on decentralized activities but I wonder if some people are turned off by the way each Make Cycle unfolds in a flurry of activity? While we try to make clear that people can enter at any time, I wonder if that is the message newcomers get from the activity. MOOC, if you were to stumble upon yourself right now — in the third Make Cycle — what would you think? Would you feel invited to participate?
  • How can we better encourage folks to break off into smaller, interest-driven groups? We seem to cluster around each other in large groups, in a positive way, and yet, one of the hopes, MOOC, is that folks would begin to see others with similar passions and similar interests, and create pathways to connect. Is there something more we can do/should have done to set the stage for that kind of small group setting?
  • What will happen, MOOC, when the last Make Cycle comes to a close in early August? Will the energy of you keep the ideas alive so that the “making” and “connecting” will filter into classroom experiences? Ultimately, that’s why we put you in motion, MOOC, for people this summer. First, to give folks time to play. Second, to encourage all of us to consider implications for learning environments.

So, MOOC, there you are — a few questions on my mind. Be sure to write back, won’t you?

Until I hear from you, happy making and joyful connecting, and always remain open and collaborative in spirit and in deeds!

Peace (in questions),

PS — the image above was created with the Newspaper Clipping site. Give it a try, MOOC, and make your own news.


Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“Adult stories never made sense. They made me feel like they were secrets, Masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?” — unnamed narrator, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

There some authors, that when they publish something new, I am so ready to devour their stories. Neil Gaiman is one of those writers, although I came late to his books in just the last few years. His style and sense of the world is so unique that, even with his quirkiness (or maybe because of it), his books find a way to draw you in and give in to imagination. I still think Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is one of the best examples of young adult fiction published in recent years, even if it does begin with a brutal murder.

His latest – The Ocean at the End of the Lane — has faint echoes of other classics that capture childhood in a story for adults. Namely, A Wrinkle in Time resonates throughout The Ocean at the End of the Lane. That’s a good thing, in my mind, and Gaiman plays with our sense of time and timelessness in unexpected ways in this story of a young boy whose neighbors have a certain magic that brings something awful into the world. The nameless adult narrator, remembering a time when he seven years old, tells this tale to us, and while the first part of the book moves slowly, it sets the stage for everything else to come.

This is a “coming of age” sort of book, but not quite, as Gaiman explores the fierce perceptions of childhood, and how adults see the world one way, and their children, another. I suppose this is true. What Gaiman explores is the dichotomy of adults viewing childhood as a safe place, while children know otherwise. There is danger and chaos lurking around every corner of our imagination, and the slightest mistake — say, forgetting to hold hands with the girl who tells you to never let go of her hand — can uncork things unimaginable and set the world on tilt.

This novel is a short one, fast-paced, and by the time you hit the middle, you’ll be racing for the end. If you are like me, the resonance of magic will linger for some time, and it may have you looking at your own children a little differently. Keep them safe, will you? And I would suggest that this book is for adults, not children, although it comes under the guise of a children’s story. But perhaps Gaiman would disagree, and argue that keeping children sheltered is not what we want to be doing. He’s not afraid to expose the dark underpinnings of the world, and maybe stories are a way to understand what we don’t quite understand.

Peace (in the magic),

Mapping the MOOC and the Front Yard, Plus a Poem

I am trying to see mapping from a few perspectives this week. One one hand, I have a collaborative map project going with the Making Learning Connected MOOC in which I have created a map with Google and opened it up to the public, inviting MOOC participants to “pin themselves” on the map and consider adding a six word memoir. It’s been nice to begin to situate where people live, putting some geographical ties to the words and sharing that has been flowing in the MOOC adventure.
mooc map

And then, inspired by a fellow MOOC participant, I decided to try out the idea of something on a much smaller scale. This “learning walk” is from my front yard. I took my camera and shot a bunch of images, straight down to the ground, of my front yard and then stitched them together into a collage (I ended up downloading a free app – Picture Collage). I really love how the whole captures the essence of the yard, and how one can find elements of beauty in the small focus, too.
In both activities, I was seeking to make some sense of my world — from my connections in online spaces via the MOOC to connections to the soil and pavement of my house, and both senses of mapping have value, I think, in that they bubble up information in a way that puts things in perspective.

Finally, all these mapping activities reminded me of a poem I once wrote, in which the mapping idea went very inward.

On the Cartographer’s Map
Listen to the poem

This creeping cord
of tension slips
its knot
and moves as a snake to the heart
I’d fall apart
but the world needs
an Atlas to keep it balanced
(precarious as it is
and such a reluctant hero, burdened)
Always there is this sense of renewal
just around the bend
with outstretched hands waiting
to grab this globe and spin me free
on the cartographer’s canvas –
crisscrossed with longitude –
layered with latitude –
I am wondering all the while where the edge is
where I will fall off
and tumble into the nothingness.

Peace (in along the lines),